Some Justice at Last in the Affair
of the Franciscan Friars
by Christopher A. Ferrara
February 18, 2015
The justice could not be more poetic: the aptly-named Father Fidenzio Volpi [Italian for “foxes”], the hatchet man for Pope Francis’ persecution of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (FFI), has been forced to admit to defamation in a civil proceeding brought against him under Italian law. Volpi committed defamation in an attempt to justify the crushing of the order for nothing more than what he had earlier called a “ definite traditionalist drift ” — i.e., the FFI’s growing attachment to the traditional Latin liturgy and its legitimate criticism of certain aspects of the Second Vatican Council.
Here are the facts: Unable to provide a valid canonical basis for persecution of the Friars, Volpi tried to invent one after his appointment, claiming that Father Stefano Manelli, founder of the order, had transferred real estate and other property belonging to the order to members of his family in an effort to defeat Vatican jurisdiction. That was a bald-faced lie. And, because Volpi’s lie was stated publicly in a letter, it was actionable under Italian defamation law. Members of the Manelli family sued him to defend the family’s honor. They have won.
To avoid further proceedings Father Volpi’s lawyers negotiated, and Volpi has signed, an agreement under which he must pay € 20,000 to the Manelli family and publish an apology on the websites he operates, in a circular letter to the friars and nuns of the order and — how sweet it is — in a press release for publication by the Italian newspapers. All of this must be done by March 3.
Volpi’s humiliation is total, and rightly so. And whatever credibility he had as Pope Francis’ representative been extinguished forever. Yet the operation for the destruction of the once-flourishing order continues according to the will of a Pope whose PR team, in manner of politicians, bills him as “the Pope of Mercy and Compassion” — a theme eagerly promoted by a world media establishment filled with the hope that Francis will authorize demolition of the Church’s moral ramparts at the upcoming Synod by approving an “opening” to “gays” and the admission of public adulterers to Holy Communion.
Back in 1977, before he made the decision to devote his priestly ministry to propagation of the Message of Fatima, Father Gruner had planned to enter the FFI because of the opportunity it afforded for a traditional Catholic priesthood in the midst of what was already a raging revolution in the Church. Providence has taken him on a different path, but he, like the FFI, has suffered baseless accusations and cruel persecution because of his own “traditionalist drift.”
The FFI, Father Gruner and the Society of Saint Pius X all have two things in common: their adherence to the Faith in its doctrinal and liturgical integrity and their subjection to persecution on account of it. There is a world of meaning in Father Volpi’s telling phrase “definite traditionalist drift.” Tradition itself is now considered a punishable offense by the aging but still-reigning revolutionary guard of the imaginary “renewal” of Vatican II.
We can rejoice in the measure of justice that Father Manelli, the Manelli family, and the friars have received, no doubt a fruit of all the Rosaries that have been prayed for them. Yet we are still living in the midst of a situation very much like that decried by Saint Basil the Great during the Arian crisis of the 4th century, when even the Pope (Liberius) seemed to have turned against the dogma of the Faith: “Only one offense is now vigorously punished, an accurate observance of our fathers’ traditions. For this cause the pious are driven from their countries and transported into deserts.”
This unbelievable state of affairs is the very essence of the Third Secret of Fatima, unfolding before us today.